Fayette County History & Genealogy

History of Fayette County

From R. S. Dills' History of Fayette County


In the winter and spring of 1787, Major John O'Bannon and Arthur Fox, two enterprising surveyors of Kentucky, explored the Virginia reservation with a view to making entries so soon as the law would permit. They traversed along the Ohio, Scioto and Miami rivers, as well as many of their tributaries. August 1, 1787, Col. K. C. Anderson, chief surveyor, opened a land office, and shortly after large portions of the bottom lands of the Ohio, Scioto and Little Miami were entered. These entries were in violation of the deed of cession by which it was provided that the deficiencies of lands southwest of the Ohio should be ascertained and stated to congress. This prohibition was removed in 1790, and entries became valid. This region was now greatly coveted, yet many difficulties were in the way—Indian wars, high price of lands, and exorbitant prices required by surveyors.

The pioneer surveyor in this district was Nathaniel Massie, then twenty-seven years old. He had been in Colonel Anderson's oflice, and was familiar with the details of the business. He had also been in the West for six years. In 1790 he entered into an agreement with certain parties for the settlement of Manchester. Col. R. C. Anderson, the principal surveyor of the Virginia military lands, had control of the land warrants placed in his hands for entry by his companions in arms. A large number of these he gave to Massie to survey and enter upon such terms as he could arrange with holders. The dangers to be encountered and the desire to locate the best lands enhanced the value of his services, and he therefore was enabled to retain one-third or one-half of the lands located, for his fees.

In 1793 he made an expedition to the Scioto, an enterprise beset with dangers appalling to any other save the intrepid man who determined to face them. Employing about thirty men, and choosing John Beasley, Nathaniel Beasley and Peter Lee as assistant surveyors, and Duncan McArthur as chainman, he, in the mouth of October, procured canoes, set out on the perilous undertaking, and proceeded up the Ohio to the mouth of the Scioto, up that river to the mouth of Paint Creek, where they began operations; and surveys were made along the Scioto as far as Westfall, on the main and north branches of Paint Creek, and Ross and Pickaway were explored and partially surveyed. In 1793-4 he resumed his work, and explored Paint and Clear creeks to their sources. It seems that no surveys were made at this time, the sole object being to obtain a correct knowledge of the geography and topography of the country. Having thus made himself acquainted with the country, in the winter of 1794-5 he organized a strong body to prosecute the surveying enterprise on an extensive scale. The same assistants were again employed, and fully armed and equipped to contend with the Indians if need be, the party set out from Manchester, taking the route of Logan's trace, halting at a spot on Todd's fork of the Little Miami, called the "Deserted Camp," where they began surveying, moving along the Miami to Oldtown, in Greene County, from which they surveyed along Massie's and Cesar's creeks nearly to the present line of Fayette. It is said that during this expedition, which was in the winter, the party were without bread for thirty days. A pint of flour was each day given to the mess to thicken the broth in which meat had been boiled. The snow fell to the depth of eight or ten inches. When no immediate danger threatened, these men assembled around the camp fire at night. When night approached, four fires—one for each mess—were made for cooking, around which, till sleeping time arrived, the company passed the hours in social glee, singing songs and telling stories. When danger was not imminent or apparent, they were as merry a set of men as ever assembled. Resting time arriving, Massie always gave the signal and the whole party would then leave their comfortable fires, carrying their blankets, firearms and baggage, and walk in perfect silence two or three hundred yards from the old camp, scrape away the snow and hnuddle down for the night. Each mess formed one bed, spreading on the gronnd one-half of the blankets, reserving the other half for covering, which were fastened together by skewers to prevent them from slipping off. Thus prepared, the whole party, with their rifles in their arms and their pouches for pillows, crouched down, spoon fashion, with three-heads one way and four the other, their feet extending to about the middle of their bodies, one nearly solid mass, so that when one turned all turned, or the close range would be broken and the cold let in. In this way they lay till broad daylight, no noise nor scarce a whisper being uttered during the night. . When it was perfectly light, Massie would call up two of the men in whom he had the most confidence, and send them on a reconnoitering circuit around the fires, lest an ambuscade might have been formed by the Indians to destroy the party as they returned to them. Thus were made the original surveys, thus were the dangers met and overcome, thus was the country wrested from the hand of nature and the initial steps taken toward the perfect development of the present.

Other Counties